Choose to find joy

One of my favorite scriptures comes from the Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 2: 24-25 

24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. 25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

In Dallin H. Oakes’ talk “Opposition in all things”  he says

“Our mortal life…. was never meant to be easy or consistently pleasant. Our Heavenly Father … knows that we learn and grow and become refined through hard challenges, heartbreaking sorrows, and difficult choices. Each one of us experiences dark days when our loved ones pass away, painful times when our health is lost, feelings of being forsaken when those we love seem to have abandoned us. These and other trials present us with the real test of our ability to endure.”

When sore trials come upon us we are faced with all kinds of new and difficult choices. And many times these decisions and choices that we have to make seem impossible to end up with a happy result.    However, the Lord wants us to have joy in this life.  That is why we were sent here. The choice that Eve made when she chose to partake of the fruit, provided the opportunity for life to begin for us.  In the midst of what Adam and Eve believed was a big failure, God turned into something beautiful and joyful.  

Was that the end of their trials?  Of course not, they had only just begun to learn the answers to the questions that they did not even know they had.

 In order for us to progress and be able to make choices and have agency, opposition has an essential role.  In 2 Nephi 2:11  We read: For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, …. righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one;

Elder Oakes continues: “From the beginning, agency and opposition were central to the Father’s plan and to Satan’s rebellion against it. As the Lord revealed to Moses, in the council of heaven Satan “sought to destroy the agency of man” (Moses 4:3). That destruction was inherent in the terms of Satan’s offer. He came before the Father and said, “Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor” (Moses 4:1).

And while that may have seemed like a great plan on the outside, without agency there could have been no joy, because we would have never known sadness there could be no growth because our choices would be taken away from us.  So you can see the importance of our Savior’s plan to give us the opportunity to choose for ourselves.  

Choosing joy is not to say that you are happy every minute of every day.  It is an overarching feeling of peace and gladness that will sustain us through our weaknesses and difficulties.

In today’s changing world we are taught to believe that everything is about equality and to a certain extent that is true.  We are equally all of God’s children, and He equally loves us all. But unfortunately, we are not equally born or raised in the same situations.  God is no respecter of persons.  He loves us all regardless of where we come from or what we do.  In contrast, the adversary is the one that wants to control us.  He has a great hold upon the hearts of people in this world.  He wants us to believe that our choices do not have consequences.  That we can do anything we want that makes us happy, regardless of how it may affect others.   

And that is just not God’s way.  In order for us to learn how to have a joyful heart, we have to make the tough choices and take responsibility for whatever the consequences may be.

When you pondered upon the questions that we talked about yesterday, who am I?  Why am I here? Where am I going? What did you learn about yourself?  Did you get down on your knees and pray to understand?  Those really are some deep questions that many of us struggle with all the time. Finding true joy is a journey but once we find it, we will know.  It will sustain us when things become difficult.

 I believe that there is a difference in being happy and having joy.  There are definitely ways that we can be happy and have fun in our lives.  But happiness is fleeting.  It is not something that we can have consistently with us just because of the nature of how our lives were created.

Joy, on the other hand, is a sustaining feeling.  It can be with us even in the sad times and difficult trials.  But we still have to choose it.  

And the truth of the matter is, we must learn how to discover deep and abiding joy by trying. By making difficult decisions and choices for ourselves.  God will not live our lives for us because he wants us to know for ourselves. And once we know for ourselves where that peace and joy comes from, we will strive harder to make the choices that will ensure that we do live a joyful life.  Even during the hard.  

Have a great day my friends!  Talk to you again tomorrow!

XO Wendy

Cast thy burden upon the Lord

I am going to tell you about my very first real experience with true grace in my life.  I was around 27-28 years old.  And had a growing, flourishing family.  I had 4 children that were under the age of around 8.  

I had struggled with depression for some time at this point and quite frankly,I just needed a break from all the chaos just for a little while. It was a beautiful Sunday morning  And so I did something that I really never did at that time.  I faked sick and had my husband take the children to church.  

I really didn’t fake it totally.  Depression is most definitely a sickness.  But on this particular day, I just felt like if I didn’t get a break, I wasn’t going to make it one more day.  Just to be clear, I was not suicidal, I just needed time to regroup.  And 3 glorious hours to myself, sounded heavenly!  At that time in the history of our church we spent 3 hours on the sabbath worshipping our Savior in the church building.

I  was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday saints, and so I’d had many experiences learning about repentance, forgiveness and grace.  But had only applied it to my life in a few instances.  I thought that repentance was for the really wrong things that you had done in your life, not something that I needed to do on a continual basis.  I know, pretty naive. 

Now I feel like repentance, forgiveness, and grace, are kind of like learning to ride a bike.  At first it might be difficult and you may be a little wobbly and require trainging wheels to begin with.  But once you learn, and those training wheels come off, you never forget the feeling of freedom you have,  I know that because I was a bit of a slow learner.  

I didn’t learn to ride a bike without training wheels until I was about 7 and all my friends had already learned.  It was one of my best friends in the neighborhood who taught me how on her little red bike.  I had gotten a cool shwinn with a basket for Christmas but it was a bit big for me still, which I think is why it took me longer.  My friend Shelly, was so patient. She taught me how to balance and get my footing.  She would walk with me each time we tried.  And when I fell, she would get on the bike and show me the way again.  

It wasn’t long before she was running beside me to catch me if I fell.  But I had it down now, I was so proud!  It was an exhilarating feeling, the wind in my hair and the gratitude that comes with accomplishment of something difficult.

Now let’s go back to Sunday that I faked sick.  Just to give a little context, I had been a bit of a wild teenager.  I had some rebellious years where I made a lot of stupid choices, as teenagers sometimes do.  But by this time I had already taken care of those experiences through the repentance process.  But I had a hard time forgiving myself for the stupid choices that I made during that time in my life.  It seemed it would crop up and make me feel like I didn’t take care of it properly, or that I somehow wasn’t worthy to have the grace promised by the Savior.  

Of course now I know, that all of that was just the adversary trying to keep me from moving forward and progressing.  He really does that!  He will try everything, especially when you are being obedient to the covenants that you have made with the Lord.  His greatest joy is to have power over you. 

On that Sunday morning, I happened to be feeling especially unworthy, I had just skipped church for no good reason. And made my husband take on that responsibility, knowing that it would be difficult to keep all 4 children under control and get them to where they needed to be, when it was time to go to Sunday school and primary.  That’s what we call the worship for all our little children in our faith.

The longer it went the more guilty I felt.  Even though it was a small thing, Satan began to work on me bringing up all the mistakes of the past and my mistakes and failings as a young parent.  

Finally I opened up my scriptures and in the front of it, nicely folded from age.  Was a blessing that in my church we receive at some point in our lives that we feel is given for direction and to help guide us here in our life on this side of the veil.  It is something that we hold very sacred, specifically given to us, and not to be shared lightly with others.  I hadn’t read mine in quite some time.  I picked up the worn piece of paper and began to read.  The words on the page seemed to jump out at me.  Even though I’d read it dozens of times.  Nuggets of wisdom and strength poured into my worn out mind and even my physical body.  I began to highlight specific phrases and was guided to the parts that made me realize that though I had made all of those mistakes years ago and had taken care of it with the Lord.  I never forgot about it. 

In Isaiah chapter 1 verse 18, we read, Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” 

Again, in the fifty-eighth section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 42, which came with great force to my mind, we read, “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.”

That scripture came into my mind with such force and I knew that the Lord was telling me, it’s time to forget those things.  I have forgotten them, now it’s your turn to forgive yourself.  He promises us that through the holy ghost He will bring all things to our remembrance.  And at that time I needed to remember that his grace will always be there to catch me when I fall.

I don’t need the training wheels anymore, once I’ve taken them off and released that burden, I can fly forward and go as far and as fast as I want, as long as I remember that His grace will always be with me.  His grace is sufficient. 

Forgiving ourselves for the stupid choices that we make is one of the most glorious parts of grace that the Savior gives us. Psalm 55:22 “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.

Today my invitation to you is to take that thing that’s holding you back and like the training wheels, throw it out. It is of no use to you anymore. You are His, and He is yours!

Have a great weekend my friends and I will catch you all again next week!

XO, Wendy 

Give yourself the gift of grace

Have you ever felt like something you’ve done is beyond the Savior’s gift to renew?  Have you ever felt like you are just too far gone that even the Lord’s greatest gift, the one that he sealed with His blood upon the cross, is not enough to redeem the horrible things that you’ve done or the mess that you have made of your life?  If so I am here to tell you that you are wrong.  There is nothing, and I mean nothing that can keep you from exercising the gift of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice in your life. 

However, it is not an easy process to overcome the power of the flesh.  The temptations of the adversary can leave large wakes as we step into the waters of sin and unbelief.  But there is always hope. And there will always be an incomprehensible joy that will come from turning your heart, your life, your soul over to the Savior.  Let him ease the burden that is upon your back.  Let Him give you that gift.

But sometimes the problem comes when we feel that others will never accept us, no matter what we do knowing what we have done.  What we are capable of doing.

In his April 2015 conference address Deiter F. Uchtforf  shares the story of Simon found in Luke chapter 7 “Outwardly, Simon seemed to be a good and upright man. He regularly checked off his to-do list of religious obligations: he kept the law, paid his tithing, observed the Sabbath, prayed daily, and went to the synagogue.

But while Jesus was with Simon, a woman approached, washed the Savior’s feet with her tears, and anointed His feet with fine oil.

Simon was not pleased with this display of worship, for he knew that this woman was a sinner. Simon thought that if Jesus didn’t know this, He must not be a prophet or He would not have let the woman touch him.

Perceiving his thoughts, Jesus turned to Simon and asked a question. “There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: … one owed five hundred pence, … the other fifty.

“And when they [both] had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?”

Simon answered that it was the one who was forgiven the most.

Then Jesus taught a profound lesson: “Seest thou this woman? … Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.”

The woman who thought that she was hopelessly lost because of sin.  Realized that the only way she could find peace was to exercise her faith, her love for the Savior by doing the one thing that she could.  And that was to have a broken heart, and a contrite spirit and turn her life over to the Savior to be healed from her pain and suffering.

Elder Uchtdorf shares, “Today and forevermore God’s grace is available to all whose hearts are broken and whose spirits are contrite. Jesus Christ has cleared the way for us to ascend to heights incomprehensible to mortal minds.”

“Grace is a gift of God, and our desire to be obedient to each of God’s commandments is the reaching out of our mortal hand to receive this sacred gift from our Heavenly Father.”

John 14:1-3 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

Let the Savior into your life.  Let him take away the burdens, the sins, the heartache that is holding you back from incomprehensible heights. 

This life is full of challenges, but those challenges are not meant to keep us from progressing and moving forward.  They are not weights that can’t be lifted by the Savior.  

Accept the gift that He so freely gave us.  In this your joy will be full and your heart will fill with love, not only for yourself but for everyone around you.  His grace is sufficient, always.

XO, Wendy

It’s all about love

Today I want to share with you another way that the Savior uses His grace to influence and guide our lives. In his recent conference talk Elder Gary E. Stevenson shares a story about a scientific experiment on bunnies. I am not going to tell the whole story here but I encourage you to go and listen or read it. I will link that in the show notes. It is really quite remarkable. After sharing the story he concluded by saying, “In recent years, Dr. Kelli Harding published a book titled The Rabbit Effect that takes its name from the experiment. Her conclusion: “Take a rabbit with an unhealthy lifestyle. Talk to it. Hold it. Give it affection. … The relationship made a difference. … Ultimately,” she concludes, “what affects our health in the most meaningful ways has as much to do with how we treat one another, how we live, and how we think about what it means to be human.”

Now apply that to the way the Savior taught us.  In the New testament in John 13:34 we are commanded to “love one another as I have loved you,that ye also love one another”. 

But it seems this simple commandment is often overlooked in today’s world. Everywhere we turn we find judgement cast upon others.  Whether it be a disagreement on social media that sparks heated discussions and contentious encounters with people we may not even know, to neglect and abandoment of those who may be less fortunate or afflicted in such a way that we feel repelled by them.  And so we fear getting involved.  That is not Christ’s way!  

If we are to be true disciples of our Lord and Savior, we will do everything we can to lift up the hands that hang down to mourn with those that mourn. To love those that despitefully use you and persecute you.  None of us are any better than another.  We are all God’s children and we all deserve the love of a God that LOVES ALL of his children deeply.  

Yes, some are harder to love than others but that is not our call to make.  We are commanded to love one another as I have loved you.  It’s not optional.  We are commanded to share the grace that we have found through the Savior with everyone that we encounter.  Jesus spent his days with those who were deemed unloveable.  But he took them by the hand, picked them up, and loved them until they were whole again.

I’ve told you before that I believe a lot of what I share here is for my own benefit, so don’t think for a minute that I don’t struggle at times with this commandment. 

We are human, we are going to make mistakes and hurt people.  That’s part of how life is on this side of the veil.  But I think we owe it to our Savior who gives us so much grace, more than we could ever handle, to then turn that grace, that strength that love to someone in desperate need of the “rabbit effect”.  

Elder Stevenson goes on to say, “We have a primary responsibility to set a tone and be role models of kindness, inclusion, and civility—to teach Christlike behavior to the rising generation in what we say and how we act. It is especially important as we observe a marked societal shift toward division in politics, social class, and nearly every other man-made distinction.

The Lord expects us to teach that inclusion is a positive means toward unity and that exclusion leads to division.”

My invitation to you today, is to soften your heart.  Open your eyes to see and your ears to hear those around you that are suffering or are in need of the grace that our Lord promises.  Love them, include them, give them the “rabbit effect”.  And then watch how the Savior’s grace will not only descend upon them, but upon you as well.

Have a great day my friends.  And we’ll do it all again tomorrow!

XO Wendy